Section 108: Jays fans feeling blue after home opener losing streak continues
By Tyler King
Canadian Baseball Network
The last time the Toronto Blue Jays won a home opener was six years ago, all the way back in the stone-age of 2011. A young, then-promising pitcher named Ricky Romero won that game - a 13-3 shellacking over the Minnesota Twins. Another (then)promising pitcher named Kyle Drabek was scheduled to start the next day.
The following year the Jays lost their home opener 4-2 to the Boston Red Sox. In 2013 they lost 4-1 to the Cleveland Indians, as R.A. Dickey made his Blue Jays debut.
In 2014 it was a 7-3 loss to the New York Yankees; 2015 a 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays; 2016 a heartbreaking 8-7 loss to the Red Sox.
And of course there was Tuesday night, the home opening game of 2017, when the Jays lost 4-3 to the (presumably) lowly Milwaukee Brewers, dropping their record to 1-6 and marking their worst start to a season in franchise history.
The Jays lost again to the Brewers on Wednesday, dropping their record to an MLB worst 1-7.
If names like “Romero” and “Drabek” aren’t enough to put the length of the curious Jays home opener drought into perspective (who knows, maybe you’re too young to even remember those guys), just consider what else was happening back in 2011:
- Barack Obama was still in his first term as President of the United States
- The movie “The King’s Speech” won best picture at the 83rd Academy Awards
- Bin Laden was found and killed by US Navy Seals
- The mobile app “Snapchat” was invented
- Robbie Alomar’s #12 become the first number retired by the Blue Jays
- Vernon Wells was traded to the Los Angeles Angels
- Edwin Encarnacion was still a relative nobody (he hit only 17 home runs that year)
- Roberto Osuna turned 16-years-old ...
It’s been 2,203 days since the Jays won their first home game of a season, but despite the pain of five straight home opener losses the hype prior Tuesday’s game was arguably no different than any other year.
Tickets sold out in 30 minutes. Days before the game the cheapest 500-level seats on StubHub were going for a minimum price of $50.00 US ... and yet people were doling out the cash (I know this because I was one of them).
But as I sat in the eerily quiet confines of the Rogers Centre during the game I paid so much to see - a game that ended up lacking any sort of spark or even flicker of energy - I found myself wondering:
Why did I absolutely NEED to come to this game?
You’d probably be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d describe the atmosphere of Tuesday night’s game as ‘exciting’. At times, it felt like there was barely even a pulse among the 48,456 fans in attendance.
Dare I say it, it was, at least occasionally, boring.
Of course part of that lethargy had to do with the poor performance of this struggling Jays team. They managed just five hits on offence, didn’t hit a single home run, and didn’t have a 1-2-3 inning on defence until the sixth. It also certainly doesn’t help the fanbase’s morale that they’ve now lost seven of their first eight games.
But along with the team’s offensive woes there could also be another reason for the more tentative cheers from the fanbase on opening night ...
The excitement of the home opener may have been rational in years past, when the Jays were in the midst of their 22-year playoff drought. Canada Day aside, that was the one game where Jays fans could go to the ballpark and feel truly excited, as opportunities to see a sold-out crowd at the dome were rare (aka non-existent).
However, as I’m sure you all know, Jays fans have been a bit spoiled over the past year-and-a-half - and deservedly so. Ever since the Jays acquired David Price in July of 2015 there have been large, energetic crowds for the majority of their home games.
Who could forget Price telling reporters that his first game in blue at the Rogers Centre was “the most fun I’ve had on a baseball field”.
Or all the American announcers gushing over the playoff atmosphere inside dome last year - even coining the adjective “Toronto-loud”.
And now that fans have had the chance to witness a packed house for 11 Jays home playoff games in two seasons, including a walk-off home run in a Wild Card game against a division rival and an ALDS clinching bat flip homer during one of the most insane innings in baseball history, any high expectations surrounding the seventh regular season game of 2017, even if it was the team’s first home game of the year, are likely going to fall short.
Now I’m not saying the hype behind this Jays team isn’t totally justified, as they were widely predicted to be the only ones who could contend with the Red Sox in the American League East. What I am saying is that it no longer has to be the home opener to enjoy an exciting baseball atmosphere in Toronto.
I know what you’re thinking, obviously half a year without live baseball is enough to drive any stable person to the edge of insanity, and, just like me, you were also itching to get back inside the concrete cathedral that is Rogers Centre, so what’s $50 bucks?
But I doubt I’m the only one who found himself wondering after Tuesday’s game why I couldn’t have waited just one more day ...
On the morning of Wednesday’s game, the second home game of the season, 500-level seats were going for $6.00 US on StubHub (a net savings of $44.00 ... or four Rogers Centre tall boys).
Seats in the seventh row of Section 113 were going for $20.00. Lineups for the washroom were non-existent. And please don’t even get me started about the absolutely criminal home opener beer lines.
Perhaps most importantly, however, is that it was still Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, and Kendrys Morales taking the field (along with Josh Donaldson, who could only pinch-hit in Tuesday’s game due to a calf injury but played DH on Wednesday).
All that being said, you can probably forget everything you just read and accuse me of being a giant hypocrite. Because come next year you can bet I’ll still be forking over that small-fortune for home opener tickets.
Something tells me I’ll be seeing you there, too.
Follow Tyler and #Section108 on Twitter: @TylerJoseph108